Bringing Literature & Writing to Life

Having a challenging time bringing some life to your literature and writing classes this last month of the school year?

One of my favorite activities to use is a comic strip creator available through PC, Apple, or Android.

We just created our own comics last week in literature class.  The students created their own graphic novel written in the style of the popular thriller series, Goosebumps.  The students loved it, and it has caused some of them to delve into the series further.

Check out this handy graphic organizer, and start your students on their own comic today!

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Boys Don’t Need SuperDad, They Just Need Dad

In my years of teaching, coaching basketball, and being involved in the lives of teens I learned one thing that dwarfs everything else I learned. Boys and young men need dads. Most importantly, they need to know that their dad is “there.”

Being “there” doesn’t mean you have to be at every game, every practice, every up and down, every event. However, being “there” means that they can depend on you. That they know you care. That you love spending time with them. That, when the time comes, you are willing to drop everything just to see or be with them.

First, some staggering and sobering statistics. Most of these statistics pertain to single-parent households where the dad is not present in the child’s life.

  • Fatherless children are at a dramatically greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, suicide, poor educational performance, teen pregnancy, and criminality, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Health Statistics.
  • Over half of all children living with a single mother are living in poverty, a rate 5 to 6 times that of kids living with both parents.
  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census.
  • 72% of adolescent murderers grew up without fathers. 60% of America’s rapists grew up the same way according to a study by D. Cornell (et al.), in Behavioral Sciences and the Law.
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes according to the National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools.
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes.
  • 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes according to a study by the Center for Disease Control.
  • A large survey conducted in the late 1980s found that about 20% of divorced fathers had not seen his children in the past year, and that fewer than 50% saw their children more than a few times a year.
  • In a longitudinal study of 1,197 fourth-grade students, researchers observed “greater levels of aggression in boys from mother-only households than from boys in mother-father households,” according to a study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.

Continue reading

Reading List: Readicide

readicide

I am currently enjoying reading this book.  It takes a look at how national education policy has killed the love of reading for students across the country.  It takes a hard look at how No Child Left Behind and high-stakes testing have been a major detriment to the overall literacy rate in America.

Most importantly, it explains how, we as schools, can curb this alarming trend and promote the love of literature in the hearts and minds of the students whom we serve.  I will have a more detailed review up when I finish reading.  In the meanwhile, I encourage you to check it out.

Resolve to Grow as a Teacher

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A new year often brings a new focus.  Typically, this focus comes in the form of New Year’s resolutions.  Often our New Year’s resolutions center around personal promises to ourselves, our family, or our wellbeing.  It is rare that our resolutions center around professional qualities.

As educators, our work never ends.  A successful educator reflects regularly.  A successful educator applies that reflection and continually tweaks and improves their teaching.

However, even the most successful educators can fall into their old habits and place the value of reflection to the side.  We may begin to teach the same lessons, with the same methods, while expecting a different result.

While there are occasions when we move from reflection to action, reflection must be a continual aspect of our professional life.

What are some easy methods of reflection for educators?  Here are a few, simple ideas for you to get a jump start on reflection in the New Year.

Peer Observation

Working together with your faculty and realizing the gifts of your coworkers is invaluable.  Take the time to observe in a colleague’s classroom.  Something you see may give you a new idea.  A culture of collaboration could be fostered through engaging with one another in their classroom.  What often happens through peer observation is that both educators grow with each other.

Journal

It is powerful to be able to put your thoughts to paper.  So what should an educator journal about?

  • Perceived problems in the classroom and possible solutions.
  • Triumphs!  What went well today?
  • Quotes.  Come across an inspiring or uplifting quote?  Write it down!  I keep a long running list of quotes in the Notes app on my phone.  This could come while listening to a podcast while I’m walking, watching a TV show, or reading a professional article.

                                                                         I will have a future blog post on journaling.

Read

Choose an area in which you want to grow as a teacher.  Find books, articles, and blog posts on that topic.  Read up on it for weeks and focus your efforts on that particular area.

One helpful reminder, don’t make your topic too broad.  When you choose an area of growth, be specific as possible. Narrow the scope of that growth initiative to aid in your overall success.   For example, rather than choosing to improve on classroom instruction, focus on how you are going to increase hands-on activities within the classroom.  This will give you a clear path to improvement.

Make it your professional New Year’s resolution to be a reflective educator.  An educator who not only grows during the summer months but throughout the entire year.

Other blog posts regarding the reflective teacher.

The Most Valuable Feedback in the World is Your Students

Are You Reaching for the Sky in Your Classroom?

High Stakes Testing: It’s Broke, yet We keep doing It

There is an old adage, “If it is broke, don’t fix it.”  Unfortunately, education in America is broke, yet we aren’t fixing it.

Extensive research has reached the conclusion that high stakes testing is a net negative and does not aid in student achievement.  

I have had the fortune of discussing testing with numerous public school educators.  They share these sentiments.  I often hear how they would love to focus on learning and the curriculum rather than teach in an environment of high stakes testing.

I feel for those educators.  Ultimately, we all want the same thing.  We all want our students to succeed.  

The following was published by NCTE and gives a summary of the research that has been accomplished regarding high stakes testing.  I have found it as a good resource in talking with other educators, parents, and policy makers on education reform.

•Afflerbach, P. (2005). High stakes testing and reading assessment: National reading conference policy brief. Journal of Literacy Research, 37(2), 151-162.

This reading brief describes the liabilities associated with high-stakes testing, including lack of research supporting a link between testing with reading achievement.EndFragment.

•Amrein, A.L. & Berliner, D.C. (2003). The effects of high-stakes testing on student motivation and learning. Educational Leadership, 60(5), 32- 38.

Research suggests that high-stakes testing creates less intrinsic student motivation and alienates students from self-directed learning. Topics include how high-stakes testing has impacted the rate of high school dropouts and student retention.

 

•Huempfner, L. (2004).  Can one size fit all?  The imperfect assumptions of parallel achievement tests for bilingual students.  Bilingual Research Journal, 28, 379-399.

This article focuses on some of the faulty assumptions that are made in the development of large-scale assessments for Spanish-speaking English language learners and argues that new measures need to be taken to assure that these tests reflect the best interests of the populations to whom they are administered.

•Neill, M. (2003). The dangers of testing. Educational Leadership. 60(5), 43-46.

The author suggests that high-stakes testing often impedes higher-level learning and skilled teaching because of the one-sided focus on test results. Data reveals that standardized testing has not led to an improvement in academic achievement.
•Triplett, C. (2005). Third through Sixth Graders’ Perceptions of High-Stakes Testing. Journal of Literacy Research 37(2), 237-260.

This study examined attitudes towards high-stakes testing by asking 225 elementary students to draw a picture and write a description that reflected their recent testing experiences.  Results indicate students’ negativity toward and anxiety concerning high-stakes tests.

Florida School District is the First to Fully Eliminate Standardized Testing

The Lee County Board of Education voted 3-2 to ditch state standardized testing, despite the objections of the superintendent.

“Sometimes it takes an act of civil disobedience to move forward,” board member Don Armstrong said, according to the newspaper. “We cannot allow the fear to hold us back.”

Click on the link for the full article http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/08/28/florida-school-district-is-first-in-the-state-to-ditch-standardized-testing/

The Latest Brain Research and What it Means for Education

Brain research is invaluable.  It gives parents and educators an insight of not only how we learn, but an even greater insight into how the children, whom we are serving, learn.  It is imperative that educators stay informed on the latest findings so they can implement needed changes in their classroom and teaching philosophy.  

The following findings come from the iNACOL paper Cracking the Code: Synchronizing Policy and Practice for Performance-Based Learning.  Mind, Brain, and Education is the first in a nine paper series from JFF called Students at the Center.

The following are a few of the key findings in their research.

Students’ brains continually adapt to the environments where they live and work…

Surroundings matter.  The climate and culture of your school and your individual classroom is paramount in the education of that child.  Therefore, if we provide a safe, caring environment a student’s brain will learn to trust and thrive in that environment.  

Emotions direct students’ learning processes, helping them gravitate toward positive situations and away from negative ones…

Emotions matter.  We are not only teaching the mind, we are teaching the heart.  A student must be emotionally stable for a positive learning outcome to appear.

When students from disadvantaged backgrounds are in high-quality schools, their cortisol levels decrease throughout the day.  The better the school, the more the cortisol levels decrease… 

Schools and Structure matter.  A quality learning environment can help students reach healthy coritsol levels, which lead to better emotional regulation and more favorable learning outcomes.  Disadvantaged students can thrive, they however must be in a quality setting to have that chance to succeed.    

Environments that promote positive relationships and a sense of community promote learning…

Relationships matter.  It makes sense doesn’t it?  If a student has a positive relationship with their teacher, that is more likely to have a positive effect on their education as a whole.  Principals and teachers should focus on building positive relationships with their students.  When positive relationships are coupled with a favorable school culture and climate, the student has the environment and surroundings to thrive.

So what is the big picture?

Physical and emotional wellness matter in education.  The way we foster positive physical and emotional wellness is by building relationships, providing a positive culture and climate, and imparting structure in all that we do.  Physical and emotional wellness has already been a growing trend within education that past decade.  These findings show us the reason for that, and provide us with the evidence that we need to take to heart.  

How is your school, your classroom, your home going to strengthen the physical and emotional wellness of the children you serve?

 

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